Wednesday’s Atlanta Press Club luncheon with the leaders of the new Falcons stadium was supposed to be a sort of subdued self-congratulation on the construction feat already underway. From the podium, 11Alive sports anchor and moderator Jeff Hullinger shovel-passed easy questions to the suits on the riser, and the suits—including Falcons CEO Rich McKay and stadium GM Scott Jenkins—replied with assurances that the public will see work on the bowl of the stadium begin around February of next year and completion in the late Spring of 2017; that the public-private partnership on this project is a better deal for citizens than the completely public-funded Georgia Dome; and that like the doomed Dome, the new stadium will be an economic engine for downtown, as evidenced by the city’s recent get of the 2020 NCAA Basketball Final Four. Almost all of the answers were built around phrases like “world-class,” “game changer,” “next level,” and things that “nobody else in the country/world is doing.” The halo scoreboard that will be larger than God was mentioned a time or two.
But God would not be slighted—at least not on this day. The luncheon was packed into half of the eastern conference room on the 49th-floor downtown Commerce Club. And as the executives took turns lauding their retractable-roofed Tower of Babel, their meek voices were almost swallowed by a baritone that boomed from the other side of the room’s divider. The unseen man’s words were not decipherable, but the ebbing and swelling of his voice was unmistakable as that of a preacher. The other half of the conference room had been rented out for a different celebration, that of the African-American Churches Transforming Society, a local group dedicated to “rebuilding our communities.”
And although McKay shrugged off the distraction, joking that the impassioned, disembodied voice belonged to a fan disgruntled over the football team’s recent on-field trials, the interruption was a not-so-subtle reminder that two historically black churches and their congregations were relocated to make room for the new arena, and that the Falcons still have some amends to make with their neighbors, many of whom are still waiting for the fulfillment of promises made during the Georgia Dome’s construction.
Football may have managed to stifle the voice of God on Sundays, but on this Wednesday, it was apparent that that voice would not be silenced.